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Recyclable electronic skin can heal, regenerate itself in 30 minutes

The idea of regenerating skin has stepped out of the world of science fiction and into medical and technological reality. Human skin tissue renews itself every couple of weeks, sure, but can it replace itself in just thirty minutes? Probably not. But that’s why artificial electronic skin exists. 

The invention of electronic skin is precipitated by manifold reasons, from heightening the senses of artificially-intelligent robots to being used in biomedical implants and minimally invasive surgery. The latest e-skin comes from the University of Colorado Boulder, which created an electronic skin that can heal itself when torn apart, as published in the Science Advances journal last week, Feb. 9.

The catch: it’s 100 percent recyclable and environmentally friendly.

Image: Jianliang Xiao via screengrab from YouTube/GeoBeats News

“This particular device won’t produce any waste,” said Jianliang Xiao, co-author of the study and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said in an interview with The Verge, Feb. 9. “We want to make electronics be environmentally friendly.”

The e-skin is a dynamic covalent thermoset-based e-skin and the first of its kind. Thanks to its thermoset with conductive silver nanoparticles, it can be re-healed when damaged and be fully recycled at room temperature — something that has never been seen in the history of e-skin thus far. Once completely healed or recycled, the e-skin then regains properties similar to the original e-skin, all while being economical and eco-friendly.

As per Xiao, the recycling of the e-skin only takes around 30 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 10 hours at room temperature. The healing, on the other hand, is much faster: 30 minutes at room temperature or just a couple of minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“We are facing pollution issues every day,” Xiao told The Verge. “It’s important to preserve our environment and make sure that nature can be very safe for ourselves and for our kids.” 

A GeoBeats video on the University of Colorado Boulder’s electronic skin may be watched below. Cody Cepeda/JB

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